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Alexander Harmer
(1856-1925)


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"Sister of Chief George"
c. 1888
Watercolor
8 x 6 inches










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Alexander Harmer, a painter and illustrator, was born in Newark, New Jersey on August 21, 1856. Harmer began painting as a child and sold his first painting at age 11. He left his hometown at the age of 13 to begin a life of travel--he made his way to Nebraska. After three years in Lincoln, he headed east to Cincinnati where he joined the U.S. Army. After one year of service in California, he requested a discharge in order to pursue an art career. After the request was granted, Harmer returned to the East Coast and enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts under Eakins and Anshutz. Eager to return to the West to paint Indians, he re-enlisted in the Army in 1881 and was assigned to cavalry duty in Arizona where he participated in the Apache wars. He returned to Pennsylvania Academy with sketches. He then contributed the finished illustrations thereof to Harper's Weekly.

In the early 1890s Harmer settled in Santa Barbara where married into one of the California pioneer families. He then switched his subject matter and practice to painting portraits and genre scenes of the vanishing life of the old missions of California, built under Mexican governing of the area. He depicted these scenes with great accuracy and detail--paying close attention to the costumes and surroundings of the period, pre-California's statehood.

Harmer sometimes signed his works "A.F.H." or a circle with a cross of two peace pipes in the center (an Apache symbol of friendship and peace). Harmer is considered Southern California's first great painter of the 19th Century. His adobe home on De La Guerra Plaza was a popular gathering spot for artists until Harmer's death on January 8, 1925.

Exhibited: California State Fair, 1887; Alaska Yukon Expo (Seattle), 1909 (gold medal).

Works Held: Santa Barbara Museum & Historical Society; Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Source:
www.askart.com